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tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  February 23, 2011 6:00pm-7:00pm PST

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captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> lehrer: good evening. i'm jim lehrer. violence escalated in libya today as thousands of foreign citizens scrambled to flee by all means of transportation. >> ifill: and i'm gwen ifill. on the "newshour" tonight, we have the latest on the increasingly unstable situation in the north african country. >> lehrer: then, we take a closer look at moammar gadhafi and his 42 years of rule in libya. >> ifill: and we assess what pressure, if any, other nations can bring to stop the regime's deadly crack down. >> lehrer: plus, charles savage of the "new york times" goes through the justice department's decision on no longer defining marriage as only between a man and a woman. >> lehrer: that's all ahead on tonight's "newshour."
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>> the suffering and bloodshed is outrageous and it is unacceptable. so are threats and orders to shoot peaceful protestors and further punish the people of libya. these actions violate international norms and every standard of common decency. this violence must stop. the united states also strongly supports the universal rights of the libyan people. that includes the rights of peaceful assembly, free speech, and the ability of the libyan people to determine their own destiny. these are human rights. they are not negotiable negotiable, they must be respected in every country and they cannot be denied through violence or suppression. and a volatile situation like this one, it's imperive that the
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nations and the peoples of the world speak with one voice and that that has been our focus. yesterday a unanimous u.n. security council sent a clear message that it condemns the violence in libya, supports accountability for the perpetrators and stands with the libyan people. the same message, by the way, had been delivered by the european union, the arab league, the african union, the organization of the islamic conference and many individual nations. i've also asked my administration to prepare the full range of options that we have to respond to this crisis. this includes those actions we may take and those we will coordinate with our allies and partners or these will carry out through multilateral institutions. like all governments, the libyan government has a responsibility to refrain from violence, to allow humanitarian assistance to reach those in need and to respect the rights of its people. it must be held accountable for
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its failure to meet those responsibilities and face the costs of continued violations of human rights. >> lehrer: in libya, gunmen loyal to libyan leader moammar gadhafi roamed tripoli today in an effort to hold the capital. witnesses said people barricaded neighborhoods to keep out the militia. and several more towns near tripoli broke away from government control. there were also new accounts of up to 1,000 killed-- accounts the italian foreign minister said were credible. we begin with a report from alex thomson of "independent television news." >> reporter: they burned his image. they burned anything green-- the color he made his and libya's own. this man even claims the protestors have renamed tripoli's green square. they say they now call it benghazi square. if colonel qaddafi thought last night's marathon speech would
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dampen his people's rising anger towards him he seems to be wrong. more pictures have emerged today showing the strength of anti-qaddafi feeling, this time in libya's western region. we're unable to verify any reports from the western side of libya where the western media are still firmly banned. but it seems the coastal towns are no longer under colonel qaddafi's control. channel 4 news has been told there was heavy fighting east of tripoli last night. protestors say they were able to fend off an attack by qaddafi's men. for the time being, the capital, tripoli, remains the dictator's last real bastion of power. witnesses say apart from the
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sporadic crack of sniper fire, the capital streets were last night largely quiet with most people staying indoors. and this seems to have continued into today. reports of colonel qaddafi shoring up his stronghold with militiamen placed on every corner, breaking up groups of three or more people. libyan state t.v. continues to run footage of pro-qaddafi rallies. nobody knows when they were filmed or where. but the support doesn't really seem to be there, even a member of his inner circle, his number two in command, has defected to the side of the protestors. >> ifill: there were also signs qaddafi may be trying to re-take territory in eastern libya-- so far without success. military sources said two air force pilots refused to bomb benghazi. instead, they ejected to safety and let their jet crash. we have a report now from inside eastern libya. we are not naming or showing the correspondent out of safety
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concerns. >> reporter: checkpoints on the road from the border with egypt. but these are colonel qaddafi's men, they're the youth who say they run eastern libya now. the doors and windows of these desert outposts are painted green, qaddafi's color, but there's no sign of his government anymore. in the first town to fall, they're celebrating still, letting off steam, defying the dictator. they burned down the police station last week. here police and army went over to the rebel side pretty quickly. this part of libya never supported colonel qaddafi. in the crowd, a libyan from a town who didn't give his name. >> we have to get rid of it. it's been 40 years of people living scared. you can't even pick up a phone to say something on the phone, you're scared of what you're
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saying. >> reporter: they gather on the spot where the crowd destroyed concrete monuments of the green book, the political philosophy qaddafi invented and forced every libyan to follow. the rubble now a a monument to their hatred for him. in the hospital, they say five died and dozens were wounded. this man was shot in the head. they're short of painkillers so they have to give a lower dose. some of the more likely injured initially didn't dare come for treatment for fear the government would find them. this man was crushed between two tanks-- a price he seems to feel is worth paying for freedom. they're euphoric, but qaddafi is still in power in tripoli. if he reasserted his rule in the east the retribution would be brutal. >> lehrer: amid the chaos in libya, foreign governments scrambled to get their citizens
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out. hundreds of americans boarded a chartered ferry with a capacity of 600, heading to malta. separately, two turkish naval ships took away about 3,000 turkish citizens. it was part of the largest evacuation operation that turkey has ever mounted. at the same time, thousands of libyans streamed across the borders with egypt in the east, and tunisia in the west. >> ifill: still to come on the "newshour": assessing qaddafi and his 42-year rule; halting the bloodshed in libya and the administration drops its defense of the law that bans federal recognition of same sex marriage. but first, with the other news of the day. here's hari sreenivasan. >> sreenivasan: new protests erupted in other arab countries today, but there was also new violence by one regime that is under siege. >> reporter: it was night in yemen when pro-government forces set upon protestors camped in
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sanaa, the capital. at least one person was killed and a dozen more were injured. but the protestors held their ground and thousands more joined them. meanwhile, in bahrain, crowds of shiites marched to pearl square in manama after the country's sunni king met one of their key demands. he released at least 100 political prisoners, several of them road in the back of a track and addressed the crowd of supporters. and in nearby saudi arabia, king abdullah returned from three month abroad for medical treatment and announced an array of pay raises and benefits in a bid to keep his country calm. >> sreenivasan: protestors and police clashed across athens, greece today during a mass rally against austerity measures. parts of the city were blanketed by smoke, after police fired tear gas at protesters who threw rocks and fire bombs. at least five people were hurt, and 20 others were detained. it was all part of a general strike that ground public transportation to a halt and closed many services. there were also protests in india against high food prices and unemployment. the demonstrations in new delhi drew 40,000. many of the participants came from trade unions.
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food inflation in india hit a high of more than 18% last december. in ivory coast, the battle for the presidency sparked some of the heaviest fighting since the disputed november elections. at least 20 people were killed, in addition to ten others who died on tuesday. security forces loyal to president laurent gbagbo faced off with supporters of his cllenger, alassane ouattara. he's been recognized as the winner of the election, but gbagbo has refused to step down. the search for earthquake survivors in christchurch, new zealand continued today with 300 people still missing. the country's second largest city was hit by a massive quake on tuesday that killed at least 75 people. we have a report narrated by neil connery of "independent television news." >> reporter: inside the crushed and twisted floors of an office complex, a moment of hope for rescue teams as a man is pulled safety.
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then a woman who remarkably still has the strength to make her own way up a ladder. these are the pancaked remains of the building they've just been pulled from. but the rescuers' determined efforts soon pay off again. ann bodkin, trapped under a desk for 25 hours is delicately brought out. (applause) her husband is overwhelmed with joy. >> i'm very happy. my legs are shaking. my hair is though i've been in a 10k run and i couldn't be happier right now. >> in the midst of one what is by and large one of the bleakest days in the story of our city, the sun came out at the same movement as they removed ann from that building. >> reporter: but the darkness is never far away.
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the canterbury television building used to have six floors that included a language school. but the destruction is so great they called off the search for survivors. >> i heard from my friend that my... our school collapsed and i saw on the telly and i heard that my friends, they didn't come out. >> reporter: this was the moment the 6-.3 magnitude earthquake struck. some of the worst affected buildings were constructed in the 1950s and '60s and were declared safe by engineers after previous earthquakes. rescuers have cordoned off the hotel grand chancellor which is threatening to collapse. with every hour that passes, hope of finding more survivors fades. the human cost of this country's worst disaster in 80 years is slowly sinking in. >> sreenivasan: new zealand's prime minister, john key, declared a national disaster. the cost of the damage was estimated at $12 billion. on wall street today, stocks
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lost more ground over concerns about libya. the dow jones industrial average dropped another 107 points to close at 12,105. the nasdaq fell 33 points to close just under 2,723. and the price of oil kept rising. it jumped nearly 3% to settle above $98 a barrel. ford is recalling nearly 150,000 of its popular f-150 pickup trucks from the 2005-2006 model years. the company said today airbags in some of the vehicles may suddenly deploy without warning. the company said there is a relatively low risk. but the national highway traffic safety administration cited 77 injuries and urged a much wider recall. former white house chief of staff rahm emanuel will be the next mayor of chicago. he avoided a runoff by outpacing five other candidates in tuesday's election with 55% of the vote. this morning, emanuel greeted commuters at a chicago train stop and spoke to reporters about the challenges confronting the city. >> to me, the test of victory will be whether the children we see today are going to school
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thinking of their studies and not their safety and whether their parents are thinking about their job rather than struggling to try and figure out how to find a job. and that to me is the test of victory. >> sreenivasan: emanuel will assume the job on may 16. he succeeds fellow democrat richard daley, who is retiring after 22 years. the environmental protection agency plans to ease air pollution restrictions on industrial boilers, in a bid to make it cheaper to comply. the agency said today it will exempt smaller facilities from some rules, and give heavy industries more time to satisfy limits on mercury and other toxins. the new rules are projected to save businesses some $1.8 billion a year over the original proposal. the threat to the world's coral reefs is getting worse. a study by 25 research organizations released today found three-quarters of all reefs are now at risk. that's up substantially from the last report, in 1998. the study said fishing methods that use dynamite are breaking up coral, and warming seas are
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making oceans more acidic. that, in turn, makes it hard for corals to harden. at the current pace, all of the world's reefs will be endangered by 2050. ford is recalling nearly 150,000 those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to jim. >> lehrer: and on to a two-part look at the libya crisis and the man at the heart, soul and face of it. moammar qaddafi is already one of the world's longest serving leaders, after more than 40 years in power. and tuesday, during his rambling, 75-minute speech, he insisted he would never resign. >> ( translated ): moammar qaddafi is the glory. if i had a position-- if i were the president, i would have resigned, but i have no position, no post. i have no where to resign from. i have my gun, my rifle to fight for libya
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>> lehrer: then 27 years old, overthrew libya's king idriss in a bloodless coup. since then the eccentric son of a bedoin herdsman has periodically and flamboyantly appeared on the world stage, as he did monday night to prove he had not fled to south america. qaddafi has no official government function, but rules with an iron fist. and he has often been characterized as unstable. >> we read that you are mad. >> ( laughs ) >> you know those things have been printed. does it make you angry? >> ( translated ): of course, it irritates me. never the less, i consider or do believe a majority of ordinary people in the four corners of the globe do love me because they different vision of that of the official governments. >> lehrer: for many years, he was best known in the west as a
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principal backer of international terror, using libya's vast oil wealth to provide funds and training camps. qaddafi defended his actions and scolded washington in an interview on the "newshour" in 1981, after president reagan expelled libyan diplomats from the u.s. what kind of retaliation can the u.s. expect for expulsion? >> ( translated ): i don't expect now anything because not serious we lost nothing. i am sorry to see big power like america behave childish behavior like this. >> lehrer: four years later, qaddafi addressed the hijacking of an egyptian airliner that killed 59 people. he appeared again on the "newshour", and denied responsibility.
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>> the airplane is egyptian. the hijackers are egyptian and the troops that attacked the innocent people and killed them are egyptians. the whole responsibility is egyptian one. >> lehrer: in 1986, the u.s. blamed libya for the bombing of a berlin nightclub, killing two american soldiers and wounding more than 50. president reagan condemned qaddafi. >> this mad dog of the middle east. >> lehrer: and the president ordered bombing raids on tripoli and benghazi. 45 libyans were killed attacks, including qaddafi's adopted daughter when the family compound was hit. two years later, libya was tied to the bombing of pan am flight 103 over lockerbie, scotland with 270 people killed. and today, his former justice minister told a swedish newspaper that qaddafi personally ordered the attack. but after 9/11 and the u.s. invasions of afghanistan and
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iraq, qaddafi's government paid millions of dollars to families of the pan am victims. and in 2003, he agreed to give up his nuclear weapons program. >> i think that the decision by libya is clearly a positive decision, it's a step in the right direction. >> lehrer: with that, the u.s. renewed formal diplomatic relations with libya. then, in 2008, condolleeza rice became the first u.s. secretary of state to visit libya in more than 50 years. in the meantime, western companies stepped up investments in the country's rich oil reserves. qaddafi had long relied on those reserves to help him maintain support among his people. and in that 1985 interview, robert macneil asked about his hold on power. >> do you fear your regime may be ended by a coup? >> i am not afraid and it is not my regime, it is people are the
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regime. >> lehrer: a quarter century later, with his people in full revolt, qaddafi is warning he will fight to the last drop of blood. we talk to two people who have known the libyan leader for awhile-- ambassador david mack was a political officer and translator in the american embassy in tripoli at the time of the 1969 revolution that brought qaddafi to power. he has gone on to serve as ambassador to the united arab emirates and deputy assistant secretary of state for near east affairs. he is now a scholar at the middle east institute. and jim hoagland is a contributing editor to the "washington post," where he writes a column on foreign affairs. he was a long-time middle east correspondent for the paper and first met qaddafi in 1973. ambassador mack, what were your
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impressions of this man in 1969? >> well, when i met him in september, shortly after the revolution, it was clear to me immediately that he was the top guy among the revolutionary council officers that we'd been meeting with. he had charisma he had an ability to speak in public with a fairly high degree of eloquence in arabic. he conveyed sincerity. he was self-confident and i think he was very convincing to libyans. >> couric: did he have a philosophy? something that he wanted to do as the leader of the country. >> at that point he was developing his philosophy. he was obviously... like anybody their late 20s, like me in the room with him, he was idealistic he was personally ambitious and he was ambitious for libya. he wanted a country that had
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been trod upon and ruled by other people for so long, he wanted it to amount to something and he wanted it to be a world figure. >> lehrer: did he say that? >> he didn't say that. but you gradually became aware of that also also you gradually became aware of the components that have gone into his... what i call his intellectual formation. like a lot of young arabs, he'd grown listening to radio cairo, the speeches of nasser intended to pattern himself a little bit after nasser. but he also... in addition to his military technical education he got a master's degree in history. he read a lot of stuff. and there was a strange mixture. a lot of utopian socialism, very mfrp non-marxist utopian socialism. ideas about the traditional arab bedouin tribal code of honor,
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the idea of islamic egalitarianism that everybody is equal in the eyes of god along with a lot of anti-imperialism, third-world attitudes, a feeling of resentment against particularly the italians who had been very brutal colonizers. but also against the british, the americans who had air bases in the country. a feeling of resentment. and these things sort of became mixed all together in what became his philosophy a few years later. >> lehrer: jim, you first met him in 1973, right? tell us about that. what was that about? >> well, it was a difficult meeting. i was based in beirut at that point and i had just been in khartoum, sudan, where a gang of black september terrorists had taken hostages of american and european diplomats and some arab diplomats as well. one of them was my friend and i
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stood outside the embassy there as they killed those diplomats and i stayed around and developed evidence that the leader of this terrorist gang had flown to tripoli and had been welcomed by qaddafi's security services. when i found out that qaddafi was going to have a press conference in tripoli shortly after, that i made sure to get there and i stood up in the press conference and challenged him with this evidence. he denied it. we got into a very forceful conversation. >> lehrer: right in front of everybody? >> that's right. he then sent over an aide saying he wanted to see me afterwards alone. that left me with a little bit of uneasiness, i confess. but i went. and it was, again, a very forceful conversation that he began by leaning across and peering at me and saying "why do you drink poison?" i said "what do you mean?" and he said "you drink alcohol. you drink poison."
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and i said "you don't know if i drink alcohol or not." and he went into a rant about how all of western society, all of western civilization was decaying, was terrible and the conversation went downhill from there. so that was my first impression and interestingly enough, it was framed through the lens of terrorism, and that was a constant in his career and a constant in my relationship. and the next time i saw him was in tripoli... was not in tripoli but was in algeria. catherine graham and i had gone to algeria to do some reporting and we learned that he was in the country and wanted to see us. so we flew to iran and sat down and he said they want that he wanted to meet with mrs. graham first alone. and i was a little nervous about that but i said all right and she was eager to do it. and so ten minutes went by, i assumed it was just a polite custom... >> lehrer: was he speaking in
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english the whole time? >> yes. >> lehrer: okay. >> to her. but i wasn't in the room. i began to get very nervous about it so after 15 minutes i brushed pass security, went in and they were sitting there talking and qaddafi had spent the 15 minutes complaining about a story that the "washington post" had run by bob woodward suggesting he was a pill-popping cross-dressing dictator. and catherine had tried to defend the paper as well. again, qaddafi denied those charges, i'm not sure there were anymore credible than the ones i made against him after khartoum. so those were my first two meetings and they were not very successful ones. >> lehrer: what about his intellect? bounce off of what ambassador mack said. >> precisely right. qaddafi was crazy like a fox in many ways. he had done a tremendous amount of reading, as you said. but it seemed to me he never integrated it. he'd never come up with a real
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philosophy of what he wanted to do beyond the extreme bitterness that he felt about the west and the anti-imperialism and that's what he poured his money into and that's what drove him into the most extreme forms of terrorism. >> lehrer: now you've stayed in contact... not direct contact, but you observed him since then. in fact, you saw him earlier... last year, right? >> in new york. >> lehrer: in new york. when did you first pick up the idea that this guy might be a little bit weird? >> well, actually, during those early meetings in tripoli in 1969/1970 there were times in the conversation when this guy-- who obviously had a powerful intellect, he had total recall of the conversation that had taken place a month earlier and yet during the course of a conversation when the u.s. ambassador was talking to him and i was interpreting, i would see his eyes kind of glaze over and go up to the ceiling and i
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wondered whether he was listening. then when it came his time to response it was clear he'd been taking it all in, he had a coherent response. but there was this feeling that he wasn't all there. i will admit, i was troubled by this. and there were signs of, you know... there that there might not be a total emotional grip on things. >> couric: and what about this weird clothing gem and those kinds of things and these stunts that that's what they were seen as, anyhow. >> i guess he wanted to make his mark. he wanted to be remembered. he wanted to show people that he was somebody. it would be interesting to psychoanalyze him but unfortunately you don't know enough about his childhood to be able to do that. but he clearly didn't mind making an odd impression on people. >> lehrer: both the interviews that i did and that robert macneil did with qaddafi were punctuated by asking a question and then his not answering. i mean, there would be this
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looking around and all of that and eventually he would answer. was that your experience? >> my initial experience was hecht be quite articulate, he could maintain an argument and be effective. i have to compare that with his recent speeches both in new york and the one yesterday and with the discussion that we had in new york where you felt he was always jumping around. and there was no kind of coherent train of convincing argument. >> lehrer: let me ask you both this finally. he said-- and the whole world heard him say it now-- that "i'm not going to resign, i'm going to last until my... the last drop of blood of mine is dropped." do you believe him? >> i think you can take that at face value. i think you have to wonder if he has a grip on reality much less control of his country at this
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point. nobody is going in and telling him how bad things really are. if they did, he wouldn't believe it and he would probably punish them for doing that. so i think he's in the bunker and he's there to fight on until the last. >> lehrer: until he dies? >> i think. >> i agree with jim. part of what came through in his speech yesterday-- which i listened to, at least large parts of it, in arabic-- is that he believes that the libyan people will rise up with him at the end of the day. they're not going to let the fruits of the revolution dribble away. he really... you could see he really believed that. and yet he did end with those, i thought, very, very convincing case that he was going to fight to the last bullet. i think it will be more attractive to him than going into exile. where we he go? zimbabwe? what would he wear? >> lehrer: (laughs) okay, well, we'll see what
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happens. thank you both very much. >> ifill: next, the international response to qaddafi's efforts to suppress the libyan revolt. jeffrey brown has that. >> brown: and we explore the options with tom malinowski, washington director of human rights watch, who previously served at the national security council and state department. maurizio molinari, u.s. correspondent for the italian newspaper, "la stampa." and charles kupchan, professor of international relations at georgetown and senior fellow at the council on foreign relations. he also served on the national security council staff. tom malinowski, let's start with the president. he said he was instructing his administration to explore the full range of options. what should those be and with w what urgency? >> i think where we need to start is understanding that there isn't anything that's going to convince qaddafi himself to come out of the bunker. as we heard, he's going to fight till the end. but the fate of libya is not in qaddafi's hands it's in the
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hands of the men who have to decide in the next day or two whether to follow his orders and those are the people who can still be influenced to make the right choice. >> lehrer: how? >> through economic sanctions. the administration working with its european allies could stop very, very quickly, virtually all of libya's international financial dealings, transactions banking transaction through threats of international prosecution. there's already serious conversation about taking libya to the international criminal court. through providing assistance directly to the areas of libya that are under opposition control. it's not that these measures necessarily would have an immediate economic bite necessarily on these individuals but they would help convince them that the tide is turning against their leader psychologically and that it is not in their interest to follow him into the abyss. >> couric: what are the constraints that you see? what are the people at the national security council and
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the state department mulling over, worrying about? especially when you go even further to potential no-fly zone. that would go a step further? >> well, i think they're worrying about the region writ large to begin with in the sense that this is a moment of great promise in the middle east. in the sense that the lid comes off libya, iraq, egypt, protests across the region, we may well see collie cleavages that have been long spretszed bubble up, we may see islam suppressed by coercion bubble up. so they're trying to balance. >> lehrer: but that's the big picture. but the immediate picture here is if there is killing going on in libya what are the constraints on action by the u.s. or the international community? >> i would agree with the specific steps tom laid out. i think we have limited leverage but i think that the no-fly zone would probably be a step too far. number one because most of the
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killing that's taking place is guys riding around in pickup trucks with machine guns and secondly i think we have to be very careful about doing things that may appear to be colonial intervention. >> lehrer: maurizio molinari, you're covering the situation at the u.n.. what is being discussed there and with what urgency? >> the urgency is in two directions. the first one, of course, is to give time to the people on the ground to a low allow the foreigners to get out from libya this is crucial in this moment. so that's the reason why they're not rushing with other positions. not to irritate the libyan government. we don't have to forget that most of these foreign nationals are in tripoli and in tripoli it's still qaddafi in power. and the second track is the humanitarian intervention. to send people on the ground, to bring food. the no-fly zone is considered the humanitarian corridors are
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considered there are several options on the ground but all... but please take note that russia and china are assisting. they don't want to implement measures that tomorrow could be implemented on their territory. >> lehrer: maurizio, what of the european allies? the president talked of the world having to speak with one voice but hillary clinton earlier today also talked about some nations-- notely many europe, italy, for example, having closer ties and therefore perhaps stronger influence >> in these hours, the french are pushing harder to have stronger measures against libya. the italians have many possibilities but in reality the berlusconi government is hesitating. the reason is that we are highly dependent on the import of gas and oil from libya and also that the biggest italian bank was saved after the financial crisis in 2008 thanks to the financial intervention of the libyan
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government and still now days if the bank is still operating it's thanks to the capital qaddafi is providing. then we have the british. they are the most influential. they know the ground better than all the others and we have to look at london for what is going to happen, i think. >> lehrer: so we still have nationals in the country. we have the larger fears that charles raised about area wide region wide problems and then we have some countries that are bound because of particular ties. so how hard would you push? >> we can be paralyzed by fear and if we stay paralyzed by fear we'll look back on our response to these incredibly significant events and feel somewhat ashamed or we can try to shape them as best as we can with the limited tools that we have to do our best and that's what the administration is starting to do. he mentioned oil for example.
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well, those are concerns, but the oil is not flowing right now because libya is in complete chaos so everybody has an interest in resolving the crisis for that reason. military options, i agree we're not there yet. and nato means airplanes being shot down. >> brown: what would it take to get there? >> well, there is a nightmare scenario. imagine if qaddafi holds nontripoli consolidates his position there and decides now i'm going to try to retake the eastern part of the country that i have lost. if qaddafi retakes it is east, we're going to have multiple srebrenicas. we're going to have people lined up and being shot by the thousands because that's what he does. and i think that's the point where people will say that's not a realistic option right now, we're going to have to start considering it. >> brown: does that sound right to you? >> it does. i'm a little bit more skeptical than tom about the readiness of
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those around qaddafi to peel away because of the tribal struck xhur in libya. it's not a nation state as we use the word nation. it's a grouping of different tribes. plasm as 140, dominated by qaddafi's tribe and a few other powerful ones to get those around him, the security apparatus, to peel away i think is going to be difficult i would focus now on pressure to get qaddafi and those around him to step back from using violence. if it does spin out of control it could be massive loss of life. because the east is effectively gone. to get it back would require an invasion. >> brown: how important is the international community speaking together and working together on this? because in that bite from the president we didn't continue... well, we heard at the beginning of the show where he said we might take actions on our own or with the international community. >> i think trying to get a unified position is very
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important we know that qaddafi is a tough customer. but i think this is a critical moment and as we saw in egypt and bahrain early intervention can convince leaders to step away from the unfettered use of force. that is critical moment to convince qaddafi to do that. >> lehrer: so maurice owe molinari, how strong is the move to keep everyone together? >> it's very strong and my impression is that the key corner of this operation are the african countries. we know that the policy of qaddafi changes very often but he believes that libya is the most important country of africa. he believes that the african identity of his country... it's more important than the arab ones. so when the president today... president obama spoke about the african union speaking with the same voice of the other organizations, that was the key.
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so we have to look forward to see what the african leaders will do to unify their position with the europeans and the americans more than the arab countries for qaddafi, for the world mind, the idea of the world is he has what the africans would say. it's more important than the others. >> brown: maurice owe molinari, charles cup chin, tom malinowski thank you very much. >> thank you. >> ifill: the obama administration reversed course today when it announced it will no longer defend in court a federal law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. attorney general eric holder's letter to house speaker john boehner read: "the president and i have concluded that classifications based on sexual orientation warrant heightened scrutiny..." and banning recognition for legally married same sex couples is unconstitutional. at the white house today, press
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secretary jay carney stopped short of endorsing gay marriage outright. >> the president's personal view on same sex marriage-- i think you all have heard him discuss as recently as the press conference at the end of last year. that is distinct from this legal distinction. the decision is that the administration will not defend the defense of marriage act in the second circuit. furthermore, the president directed the attorney general not to defend, because of the decision that it's not constitutional, defend the defense of marriage act in any other circuit in any other case. >> ifill: the law's supporters condemned the president's decision. and a spokesman for speaker boehner said in a statement that, "the president will have to explain why he thinks now is the appropriate time to stir up a controversial issue that sharply divides the nation." for more on this, we turn to charlie savage, domestic
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correspondent for the "new york times." welcome to the newshour, charlie. explain something to me. we heard jay carney today make the distinction between a legal decision that the president and attorney general made and a moral decision. what is that distinction? >> well, most of the debate over gay marriage in this country has been on the moral issue, the very basic issue: should gay people have a right to get married? but this debate has moved past that one level to a legal issue about what happens after they have already gotten married. there are now eight states plus the district attorney to either issue marriage licenses to gay couples or recognize such marriages if performed elsewhere. and so that's raised a new issue which is this: if there are two sets of married couples in a state whose marriages are lawfully recognized by that state, is it constitutional for the federal government to treat those people unequally? to handout certain benefits to
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one set of marriages... married couples and not to another based on their sexual orientation. >> ifill: so remind people who don't watch this all the time what exactly defense of marriage act is, what it was intended to do. >> the defense of marriage act was passed by the republican congress and signed by president clinton in 1996 a presidential election year, and it was designed to stop the growth of gay marriage-- which then had not even gotten going but you could see it on the horizon. and so the key issue, the provision at issue in these lawsuits that triggered this decision today says the federal government will not recognize a marriage unless it involves a man or a woman. so even if the state of new york say, says this lesbian couple is lawfully married, this gay couple is lawfully married, the federal government will ignore that distinction. and so when it comes to certain benefits like for example, the surviving spouse in a marriage who inherits property from their
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dead husband or wife does not have to pay estate taxes on that but the federal government is charging estate taxes to surviving couples who are in gay marriages even if those marriages are recognized under their state's laws. >> ifill: so what the white house is saying today and the justice department is saying today is that they are going to ignore a federal law. they're not going to do what they can to pursue or defend a federal law. how unusual is that? >> i wouldn't say they're going to ignore it. they're making clear they're going to keep enforcing this law unless and until there's a definitive ruling from the court that says this is unconstitutional and you, the federal government, must not enforce it. they're saying when people challenge these laws, when they file a lawsuit saying "this violates or constitutional right we have a right to equal protection under the law, you can't do this federal government" the justice department is no longer going to come into court and say "no, no, judge, you should get rid of this lawsuit, there's a valid reason why this law is constitutional." they're going to leave the law undefended and that means that
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maybe congress more likely just the house of representatives will point its own lawyer to come in as a friend of the court to defend the law or maybe a judge in a lawsuit will appoint a lawyer to at least make the argument that the law is constitutional but the full weight of the justice department will no longer be backing these laws in court. >> ifill: how unusual is this? does that happen a lot? >> it does not happen a lot. it happens. it happens from time to time maybe once a decade, twice a decade. the president... usually it happens in the context where the law infringes on presidential power in some way and then the president says "i'm not going to defend a law i don't like it infringes on my own constitutional responsibilities but more rarely it happens in a situation like this where the president has decided there's no plausible argument that i buy that this law is constitutional therefore i'm going to leave in the court and let other people defend it if they want to. >> ifill: now the president's stands on gay marriage has, in his words, evolved over time. he said he was not in favor of
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actual gay marriage. this seems to take it a step more in that direction >> well, during the presidential campaign he said he didn't favor gay marriage but he favored civil unions for gay people. but then he said after the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" law late last year which barred gay men and women serving openly that his own views on same-sex marriage were "evolving." today his press secretary said he's still in that state of flux. i think's a suspicion on the left and the right that president obama probably actually is a liberal who favors gay marriage and he's just not saying so for political reasons. this does seem to be inching closer towards what may be an inevitable evolution for him. >> lehrer: so what does this decision do today to case which is might be in the pipeline? >> well, there are two cases pending in new york which drove this decision for a legal technicality reason. it was going to be much harder
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for the justice department to defend against these lawsuits than previous ones and there is one very important one in the first circuit in massachusetts. a trial judge has already ruled the law unconstitutional and the justice department just last month filed a brief at the appeals court saying no, no, you should overturn that decision, this law is constitutional. my understanding now is that in these cases and in others the justice department is going to change its position or not defend the law. that would involve in this case in boston, for example, probably filing briefs saying those earlier briefs are no longer operative, we no longer believe these legal arguments and we're getting out of here. >> ifill: congress passed this law by significant margins in both houses. is this something they can challenge? >> congress can... it's not that they can challenge the justice department's not to show up in court but they can appoint someone to represent their interest as a friend of the court to make the argument that
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they wish the justice department was making on their behalf. so that's one option. i would predict that the house of representatives which, of course, is under republican control will do that. but we'll have to see how it develops. >> ifill: charlie savage of the "new york times," thanks so much. >> thank you. >> lehrer: finally tonight, another of our stories on the mexican drug war. from the city of monterrey, we have a report from bill neely of "independent television news." >> reporter: he doesn't dare show his face, none of them do. yet they are policemen that was once the safest city in latin america. monterrey is mexico's richest city, its business capital. but drug cartels want more of the business. drug money has always been laundered and spent here. these ferraris are all bought, but no one's picking them up for fear of being targeted.
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and the fear in monterrey is growing. a daylight gun battle in the city center. it's not unusual federal police struggling to retain control as cartels mount what's being called an insurgency against the government. they hardly need the cover of darkness, but it's mostly at night the cartels target the police and their gunmen are killing them by the carload. two policemen have just been shot dead here, ambushed by gunmen who pulled alongside them in two cars. so far today in this city four police officer have been murdered. in all, nine people were shot dead that day more than 20 policemen were killed in monterey last month. but that's not the half of it. monterey is becoming a city of massacres.
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have a dozen policemen here, rivals from another cartel there some beheaded. the killers leave messages threats, and the police are resigning in their hundreds. "we're afraid" he says. "it's getting so much more dangerous. he's seen half his staff quit. but the police have a problem. >> no one trusts them. >> they trust the army and the marines. >> reporter: but not the police? >> not the police. >> reporter: do you think they're linked to the drug cartel? >> everybody thinks that. >> reporter: poorly paid officers are bought off by cartels. the corruption runs deep from officers on the beat to police chiefs. and up further to mayors, judges senior politicians mexico is losing faith. life in its model city is changing. and it's a war the government
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isn't winning. >> well, there are many reasons i think we're not winning the war. we have a lot of poor people that many of them would like to be... >> reporter: killers? >> chief of the mafia. >> reporter: another day; another atrocity by the mafias. this time a car bomb. monterey is sinking faster than any place many mexico. the gunman are pouring in. it's a city under siege. army, police, governments, none of them can control it. one man told me "if month say are lost, everything is lost in mexico." the rich, once-safe city is now cowering under the shadow of the gun. >> lehrer: we will have one more bill neely piece from mexico on youth gangs in the drug war shortly. >> ifill: again, the major developments of the day: president obama called for
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in libya, gunmen loyal to qaddafi roamed tripoli today in an effort to hold the capital. but several more towns broke away from government control. a ferry loaded with several hundred americans was delayed leaving tripoli, by high seas. and the obama administration announced it will no longer defend in court a federal law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. and to hari sreenivasan, for what's on the "newshour" online. hari? >> sreenivasan: you can watch jim's full 1981 interview with moammar qaddafi, as well as robert macneil's 1985 conversation with the libyan leader. that's all on the rundown and judy has filed a blog post. plus, tonight's nova explores the virtures of venom. we talked to director chad cohen about the documentary and his own encounters with dangerous animals. the program airs tonight on many pbs stations. all that and more is on our web site, newshour.pbs.org. gwen? >> ifill: and that's the "newshour" for tonight. on thursday, we'll look at the latest on the crackdown in libya. i'm gwen ifill. >> lehrer: and i'm jim lehrer. we'll see you on-line and again here tomorrow evening.
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